After the disappointment of going down by one point (18-17) to Northampton Saints last weekend, we face the challenge of travelling to Welford Road and taking on Leicester Tigers in the semi-finals of the Zurich Wildcard play-offs this Saturday evening (15th May), kick-off 7.15pm.
We were perhaps lucky to lose by only one point at Franklins Gardens, after seeing the way our set-piece struggled against the Northampton pack but, as we discovered just before half-time, James Hayter had damaged his ribs in the second scrum of the game that explained a lot as to what had been going on.
As you will be aware, the team has already been announced with a number of changes from last weekend. Mike Worsley has recovered from his broken nose, while Jason Leonard starts at tight head with Jon Dawson resting his shoulder that was giving him some trouble last weekend.
Tani Fuga is back from suspension, Simon Miall comes back into the second row and Tony Diprose starts at number eight. In the backs, Paul Burke is back from injury, Scott Bemand gets his chance at scrum half and Will Greenwood also returns.
There had been some talk of us putting out a second team and resting players for the Parker Pen Challenge Cup Final. That is not what we are about. It is only two months since we played Leicester in back-to-back Zurich Premiership fixtures and, although we lost them both, there was nothing in either game. Of course they will be difficult opponents, as they are playing very well at the moment, but we believe that we can travel to Welford Road and get a result, and we have every intention of doing so.
On the injury front, James Hayter has 'popped a rib cartilage' but still has a 50/50 chance of being available for the game against Montferrand next weekend. With the exception of the long-term injured (Ace Tiatia and Roy Winters) everyone else should be fit for next weekend.
Behind the scenes, there is a lot of work going on planning for next season both in terms of pre-season preparation and recruitment. However, the squad of players that we have with us are still working hard towards making this a successful campaign. Sixth in the Zurich Premiership was yet again an improvement on last year and we still have two opportunities of qualifying for the Heineken Cup, and one chance of winning a trophy.
From a Playing Management perspective, it is important that we assist the current squad in achieving these goals before we allow ourselves to get carried away with the 2004/05 season.
On Saturday evening we will face a very difficult game against Leicester. They are back to playing as well as they were when winning the Zurich Premiership, have an injury free squad and a squad containing many players of international ability. We know it will be difficult but we are, as ever, looking forward to the challenge.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.